Introduction: Ultimate Beetlejuice Sand Worm Puppet Costume
Third Prize in the
Halloween Costume Contest
There's no bones about it, I LOVE Halloween. Actually.... there were lots of bones in last year's Halloween costume. My Simpson's costume couch was a big hit. What could I possibly build this year that would even compete? The truth is.... the idea for this year's costume was already tumbling around in my brain on the drive home from last year's Halloween party. I've been collecting materials for almost a year and I've been building steadily since August 14th. Each year, I start building earlier and each year the costume gets bigger. The size of the costume this year was only constrained by the measurements of the bed in my pick-up truck. Perhaps next year, I'll be building in sections or renting a cube van.
Anyway, I decided that everyone's favourite Bio-exorcist would be the central theme for my build. My main intention when building a costume is do something that has never been done before. No stand-alone Beetlejuice costume for me. I decided to incorporate the classic house from the movie and I couldn't resist adding a Sand Worm. My initial concept was to build the costume based solely on the movie poster from the movie. I was planning on having the Maitlands in their wedding attire behind me with no heads. That way, people could jump in behind me and pose for a picture, using their own heads for Barbara and Adam. I really loved this concept but it totally got trumped when I came up with the idea of having a Sand Worm puppet.
After a few sketches, a quick scale mock-up, and some 3d modelling of the house, I was ready to get down to business. It most certainly was Showtime.
Check the last step for some more finished pictures of the costume.
Step 1: House - Blue Foam Construction
I always run back to my old friend Blue Foam around costume building time. It's cheap, reliable, easy to work with, and most importantly, it's light weight. There are many ways to cut blue foam. I like to use the table saw and a large band saw for accurate and straight cuts, but you can use a utility knife and a straight edge. Even a hand saw works well in a pinch. Your best friend in this situation is a 3d modelling program. Even though the model looks pretty straight forward, the angles can trip you up. I found myself pulling measurements from the 3d model constantly in order to help me set my machines to the right angles.
Tips for Construction and Assembly
- Wear a mask when cutting blue foam. That dust just ain't good to breathe.
- Use a hot glue gun to join panels. Just make sure the glue isn't too hot because it might just melt the foam. Finding the right temperature will help you move quickly. You can use PL 200 panel adhesive, but it is bulkier and takes much longer to dry.
- I have also found packing tape to be useful for connecting panels, however sometimes it gets in the way later when you want to glue things to the blue foam itself.
- Using a miter saw, table saw and a band saw with tilting table will be the easiest way to cut accurate angles.
- Measure twice and cut once. Wasted materials can be costly.
- Take a picture of yourself wearing your Instructables t-shirt. People will recognize that you're not good at taking selfies. That's a good thing.
Step 2: House - Siding, Soffit & Fascia
Once I had my house built out of blue foam it was time to side the damn thing. I had a few material options here. I initially thought that I would rip individual strips of wood that I would paint white later. I soon realized this would be way too time consuming and heavy. I then found a couple rolls of white melamine edge banding in the shop. This would figure to be the best solution. I got out my paper cutter and my glue gun and got to work. This was absolutely the most tedious part of the entire build. I'm almost certain that I could have sided a full scale house in exactly half of the time.
- Mark layout lines on the outside of the house to ensure straight installation
- Mark the position of windows and doors
- Use hot glue to attach the siding
- Only glue the top edge of the siding. This will give a more three dimensional effect as the siding will buckle a bit at the bottom making it look more natural
- Use a paper cutter to cut lengths. This saves a lot of time
- I used some old vinyl wrapped venetian blinds to cut pieces for soffit and fascia
Step 3: House - Roofing
When it came to the roof of the house, there were a few things to pull information from. The model house in the actual movie has a dark roof. The full sized house in the movie has a rusted metal roof. The movie poster has a combination of the two. I modeled my roof based on the movie poster because I liked the contrast of the black sections of the roof.
- The metal roof was made with 8" white aluminum fascia. It's great because it comes with the ridges.
- Use adhesive backed grip strips for the other roof sections. That stuff is basically scale model shingles.
- It's probably easier to make paper templates for the roof sections before you cut any pieces.
- Cut the fascia with a pair of tin snips
- Put some salt or sugar on top of the fascia roof pieces and give it a light dusting with some sort of orange or red spray paint. I used a basic primer. Once the paint has dried, dust off the sugar, and rub out the paint with a brillo pad. This will replicate the appearance of rusted metal roofing.
- Glue the roof sections to the blue foam with PL Premium
- The decorative iron railing on the attic roof was made with plastic gutter guard from the dollar store
- The last thing that I added was the cove moulding around the base of the top roof section. This allows me to take the top section on and off like a hat (for easy access later)
Step 4: House - Windows
I originally intended to make the windows with wood frames and cut intricate little dados to install all of the plexi-glass windows. I painstakingly made the round windows out of wood in a series of complicated steps that I won't share, fearing that you'll follow down that same misguided path. I later pulled out those windows and opted for frames cut out of the same vinyl venetian blind pieces that I used to make the soffit and fascia. Excellent decision.
- Cut out the windows in the blue foam with a utility knife, a hack saw blade, or a fancy heat gun like I have
- Use any plexi-glass that isn't perfectly clear. I found some from the plastic sheet that came from an old projection tv. It has angled ridges in the plastic that distorts the view. This was perfect, because I didn't want people seeing inside the house and looking at my legs. This plastic also provides a nice glow when lit from behind
- Glue the frame of the window first, then add the glass, then add the exterior trim. Making the windows in one unit and sliding them in was too much like real life and it didn't work out that well.
Step 5: House - Doors
Once I had all the windows done, it seemed natural to make some doors to keep the pests out. Because I was only making the front half of the house from the movie, I only needed a front door for the house. I sourced two images for the making of the front door. I referenced the model house from the movie, as well as a screen cap from the interior foyer in part of the movie. The only other door I needed, was the door to the netherworld. This is what lets the Sand Worm through.
- The door could be made from anything really... the best option is some sort of 1/4" plywood. This seemed to match the scale correctly
- Cut out windows for the front door and fill them with plexi-glass glued from behind
- I added some trim details on the front and painted the whole thing red
- I scavenged some tiny brass hinges for the door to the netherworld.
- I used my fancy multi-router to carve some panel profiles in the front of the door. This could be done on any router table with a bit of set up, or even carved free hand
Step 6: Foundation, Base and Backboard
When you build a model house you can take certain liberties that you can't take when building a real house. In this case, I decided to build the foundation last. I'm not sure why... It just happened that way.
- Use a Dremel to carve the mortar lines in the stone work. Any fine sanding bit will do.
- Paint the blue foam with acrylic latex paint as a base coat
- Even though spray paint tends to eat blue foam, I find you can get away with light coats
- Use some different colours of acrylic paint and use a dry brush to add highlights to the stone work
- Even though this costume is on wheels try to use light weight materials as much as possible
- If you have storage space, hold on to packing styrofoam. It's very light weight and structural
- I framed the bottom of the base with some basswood to provide extra structure for the costume
- Glue some plywood blocks to the styrofoam bases with PL Premium to provide a screwing base for wheels
- If possible, make the backboard detachable. This is one thing I regret not doing, because it made it difficult to apply the background graphics later. Alternately, I could have waited until the end to attach the backboard but I wanted to figure that part out and I got ahead of myself.
- Use a handheld router to flush mount the hinges to the door and glue a piece of wood into the groove cut into the foam to provide a screwing anchor for the hinges.
- Consider the height and width of the door to make sure you have an easy time getting in to the costume. I put it a bit low and smashed my head off the top board a few too many times
Step 7: Grave, Grave Stone, Grass
If you've read this far, obviously you're a big fan and have watched the movie. If not, you have some homework to do. One of my favourite scenes from the movie is the classic graveyard scene where Barbara and Adam dig up Beetlejuice's grave. I always loved how they had to dig through foam, and cork, and cardboard, which is what I have tried to convey in my very own model.
- To save a bit of time I purchased the grave stone online on EBAY. I got a pretty good price because I told the seller that I just wanted the back part to save on shipping the entire toy
- Because the back of the grave was flat, I carved a back out of blue foam and glue it together before I painted everything
- I tried to use the same materials for the layers of the dug grave. This included cardboard, carpet underlay and some cork
- I got a great deal on the turf at home depot. I happened to stumble upon a remnant and paid half price
- Before I laid out the grass and glued everyone down, I drilled out some sections with a 4" hole saw. I rolled up some thin plastic and glue the rolls in place. These would be the connection points for the sand worm
- I used "Big O" drainage tubing for the body of the sand worm
Step 8: Coffin, Shovel, Chimney
Every once in a while when I'm building something like this, I get and idea and I go on a tangent. This step is a perfect example of one of those divergent courses where I find myself creating and tying up some loose ends that weren't necessarily part of the original plans. When I finished the grave, I needed to have a coffin, and when I finished the coffin, it only made sense that I had the shovel that was used to dig it out. And finally, I thought it was about time the chimney got painted.
- If you have access to a vinyl cutter, use it to stencil the name on the coffin. If not, you can paint it on free-hand
- I used a dremel to distress the surface of the lid to the coffin before I painted it
- I used an old paint brush handle for the handle of the shovel
- I used a shear and the brake in the auto shop to form the shape of the shovel. I was able to bend the metal around the wooden handle by clamping it in a vice and then hammering it out a bit. It took me a few tries to get the measurements correct
- Paint the chimney before you attach it to the house so that you don't have to mask it off like I did
Step 9: Porch, for Sale Sign
I found that I kept putting off making the posts for the porch. I needed six of them and I wasn't too excited about spending the time turning individual posts on the lathe. I just wanted to spend my time on more important details. When I started looking around the shop for some alternative, I stumbled upon an old rocking chair that I rescued from my parents basement when they moved a few years ago. My good friend and colleague told me that he was going to take it home and fix it. I was confident that it was never going to happen, because the chair was beyond repair. So, I butchered it and stole the spindles to use for my Beetlejuice house porch. Part of that chair has found new life in my costume. I feel good about that.
- Butcher an old chair for spindles before taking the time to make your own
- Add as many interesting details to your project as you can
- Again, if you have access to a vinyl cutter, use it for stenciling. It saves so much time. Alternatively, you can print out your sign stuff and stick it on with double sided tape or contact cement. For me, the painted version always looks more genuine
- This is a reminder to myself to add the red SOLD marker to the top of the for sale sign
- completed the sold sign on Halloween before my second contest
Step 10: Backgrounds
After siding the house, this was the second most tedious part of building the costume. I really thought that getting someone to do the backgrounds in a large format vinyl wrap would be the way to go. I still think it is, but despite my usual lack of concern for budget, I didn't think I needed to spend more money here. Instead, I opted to use the resources I had available to me. My first run, involved printing the designs out on my large thirty-six inch, twelve year old dinosaur HP. I then laminated those sheets using my old steering wheel press. That took forever. I then stuck everything down with double-sided tape. My second run was printed in thinner strips on the slightly newer 24" printer and laminated using our shnazzy t-shirt press. This work way better.
- Don't stick large paper backgrounds down with double-sided tape. It will look good at first, but changes in moisture will cause the unstuck portions of the paper to buckle and ripple. CRAP!
- Find a good spray adhesive. I'm still using that Elmers and it just doesn't work well.
- If you're patching things together to cover a large area, pay close attention to where you're going to put the seams. I ended up ripping my first backgrounds off because of poor seam placement. Everything started peeling and it looked terrible
- Before I glued down the backgrounds, I got the idea to illuminate the moon on the front side and on the back side. I used a router to create an inset pocket for a piece of 1/8" plexi-glass. I photo-shopped my backgrounds so that the moons would line up with the round cut-out in the back panel. I then attached one of my dollar store lights to a length of galvanized conduit.
Step 11: Outer Sandworm
Building the sand worm was pretty fun. I knew what I wanted to accomplish and it was an interesting adventure along the way. I made several trips to Fabric Land and bought many different types of fabric. The original textured vinyl that I bought for the sand worm had the look that I wanted but it wasn't very flexible. When I finished covering the BIG-O for the first three sections of the snake, I scratched my head and realized that the material wasn't going to work for the puppet portion of the Sand worm. I ended up going with a material called fashion spandex that had a snake skin like print on it. The beautiful and unexpected result of spray painting this material solved all of my sand worm issues.
- Make careful decisions about material use and try to have a little more foresight than me
- Experiment with materials, you never know what perfect result you'll stumble upon
- Careful use of a glue gun can save you some time and effort if you have yet to learn how to sew
- Use some sort of form to wrap your fabric around for painting purposes
- Whenever you find k'nex at a yard sale, buy it all. You will find uses for these fantastic little pieces in so many of your instructables projects
- Flexible dryer duct is very useful for making a flexible body for a puppet.
- Be resourceful. Two old bicycle reflectors from the garage made excellent eyes for the outer sand worm
I fumbled my way through this part of the build with a bit of trial and error. The first thing I actually built with this whole costume is the structure for the mouth with k'nex pieces. I attached these to piece of round duct work that I had in the shop. I used the k'nex gears to make sure the outer mouth would open and close in unison. Once I had the basic structure, I then covered it in some wire mesh to define the shape, and then covered that with some foam. The rest of the build is pretty well explained by the pictures. The only snag I had was the gluing of the foam lips to the worm head. I originally intended to paint the foam itself, but I ended up covering this with some green fleece material left over from BOWSER. I then painted a layer of liquid latex and cotton over top of the fleece and finished it all up with some PAX paint. The original textured vinyl that was supposed to be used for the body of the worm, found a home inside of the mouth. I also installed two rare earth magnets on the top and bottom portions of the mouth that help keep it in the closed position.
Step 12: Inner Sand Worm Puppet
Once I had the outer sand worm completed, I started to build the inner sand worm section. This started with a rough outline drawn on a piece of blue styrofoam. I didn't have a clear plan of how I was going to make this, but this is a perfect example of one of those times when you just have to start making the damn thing to see what happens. So that's what I did.
- Make sure that you size things accordingly. I had to rip things apart and make them smaller because the first iteration of the inner sand worm would not fit inside the mouth of the outer sand worm
- If you can beg borrow and steal eyes from something else, do it! I stole the eyes from the old doll I hacked apart for last year's Ugly Christmas sweater. I knew there was a reason I didn't throw that thing out.
- Use liquid latex and cotton to help blend the eyes into the head of the puppet. I just brush it on with a dollar store paint brush. Don't put it on too thick or it won't dry as quickly.
- A great way to make the teeth for the puppet is to vacuum form them. I used some old plasticine on a piece of plywood to make the mould. On my second attempt, I cooled the plasticine in the fridge and found that the teeth held their shape better when coming into contact with the heated plastic.
- I used a scrap piece of styrene to join the top and bottom sections of the mouth together. This allowed for the perfect amount of springiness needed to let the mouth open. To close the mouth, I just squeeze my fingers and thumb together.
- When placed inside of the outer sand worm, I can just bend my wrist to force the magnets open.
Step 13: Mask
I want to learn to make latex masks and have watched plenty of tutorials and researched all of the materials required to embark on such an endeavour. I have yet to find the time to fit this element of building into my costume. So.... I continue to make do with other methods. "Why make a mask when Beetlejuice is simply a make-up job", you ask? Great question. The easy answer for me is, I simply don't want to wear make-up. I like the convenience of being able to take a mask on and off, and I don't want to shave my beard. It's getting cold out.
- Be careful when you buy a mask online. You might not get what you paid for. I bought the mask pictured above from Mooncostumes.com , but what showed up was not even close to what they represented on their site, and I completely overpaid.
- Any mask can be modified, but keep in mind that you'll need some specific materials to work with a latex mask
- Hot glue will not stick to latex. I used loc-tite spray adhesive to glue the parts of my mask. Do a quick search online to find what other methods will work
- Paint your mask with PAX paints or mix acrylic paint with some Pros Aide. This painting method will give you a flexible paint covering that will flex with your mask
My mask was a bit of an adventure. When I realized that the mask I bought was pretty crappy, I cut the lower half off and thought that I would make a half mask. When I mocked it up, it thought it looked way better. I decided to buy a set of dental distortions that I would wear in conjunction with the half mask. Months later when I started to re-vistit the mask, I stumbled upon the shell of an old animotion mask that I purchased at Value Village last year. When I combined the crappy Beetlejuice mask with the plastic shell, it reminded me of the Beetlejuice from the snake/bannister scene from the movie. I was encouraged by this, and I went for it. I got everything glued together, I added hair, moss, and touched up the paint job.
The next day I decided I wasn't in love with the mask and I made the difficult decision to rip things apart and try something else. I felt like the teeth made the mask look too cartoony. So.... I grabbed my Dremel, the one that I won for my Chucky costume and I started some mask making dental surgery. I removed all of the teeth, installed my set of dental distortions that I bought on ebay. The result was a more realistic looking mask. I touched up the paint job again, added some more moss, and some more hair. I glued a piece of wire on the inside of the neck to help add some shape. I was very pleased with the result. I might consider blacking out my eyes with a bit of make-up to complete the effect. Maybe next year I'll finally get around to sculpting and casting my own mask.
Step 14: Pants and Jacket
The Beetlejuice suit..... I deliberated over this one for a while. This is not something you can just walk into a store to buy. I knew that this would be a focal point of the costume, so it had to be good. I've mentioned my lack of sewing ability, and even if I was a prodigy with needle and thread, that pin striped two-piece would take time and money to craft. Allocating time for specific parts of the build is an important part of the Halloween costume build process. I found some good instructables for making the suit, but finding a cheap white suit to start with wasn't as easy as I hoped it would be. I looked online for costume suits and I was not impressed with what I found. They were all quite cheaply made and the stripe patterns seemed to be out of scale. The best one I could find was from Cosplaysky.com. I purchased from their ebay page because I have a long-standing account and I like the Paypal protection. It's always a bit of a risk when you buy from China. There are a lot of scammers out there. The suit was expensive, but I took the chance and it was totally worth it. I suggest if you use their service, that you pay the extra for expedited service. My suit showed up 3 weeks after my order date. Nice!!
The boots were one of the first things I purchase for this costume. I got them at Value Village on 50% and I think you'll agree that they are the perfect Beetlejuice boots.
- It's never too early to start assembling materials for your costume build. It should be a year long adventure.
- Hunt through yard sales and thrift stores to save money on supplies
- It's not necessary, but I like to use fake Halloween prop legs to fill out my boots
- Whenever possible, make your costume come to life to help sell this illusion. I decided to make one of my legs movable and found myself employing some of those k'nex pieces again.
- I used cardboard tubes to fill the legs. They are relatively light weight and structural at the same time. I few bolts drilled through will attach them nicely to the house.
- Make sure you plan the right height for your costume. For me, this was done way back at the beginning of the costume, and was a necessary foresight. If you're not at the right height the fake legs won't look like they belong to you
- When you get a new idea mid-build, assess the time it will take to complete the concept and weigh it against what it might potentially add to your final result. I took me some time to mess around with the kickable leg, but I think it was totally worth it
- Make sure you have things mocked-up perfectly. I needed to cut the pants of my expensive beetlejuice pants and I only had one shot at doing it right. This meant dressing and undressing those fake plastic cardboard tube legs way too many times
- I used a bit of the wire mesh on the inside of the costume to help hold the shape of the waist of the pants. Most of this is covered by the jacket anyway.
- The left leg was anchored to the sand worm by screwing through the bottom of the boot and into the BIG-O.
- To help form the shape of the legs, I stuffed some cotton batting in there as well as some dollar store knee pads for the knees.
- A simple hinged foot pedal, a k'nex gear and a wire provide the mechanical means to raise and lower the leg. Careful guys, this boot has an inappropriate level of kicking height.
With the legs in place, I simply needed to attach my puppet to the jacket. For this, I cut a hole in the armpit of the jacket and basically glued the puppet in place. I used some more cardboard tubes and a fake dollar store hand to complete the fake arm. When some of the Custodians at school (they get to see the entire build process) saw this illusion for the first time, they were surprised at how real it looked even though they new my arm was inside of the sand worm.
Step 15: Beetlejuice Sign
I really love the Beetlejuice sign and had to include it in my costume. My original intention was to cut it out on the CNC. Unfortunately our machine is down while we wait for new software, so I went looking for alternatives.
- Find a large JPEG image of the sign and convert it to a vector drawing using Adobe Illustrator
- Cut the design on sign vinyl
- Transfer the design to the foam with some transfer paper and then remove all the unwanted vinyl
- Spray paint the sign and let the paint eat away at the foam to create texture. Spray the paint on heavily to get a better texture and more relief for the letters
- Use a combination of spray paint and acrylic paint to finish painting the sign
- I went through several tries before I could finally leave it alone. I made the mistake of painting the the sign black first, when I should have used white for the inner detail
- Cut a groove in the back of the sign so that it can be attached and removed easily from the backboard. Make sure you measure and get a nice friction fit. This costume won't fit through doors with the sign attached.
Step 16: Finishing Details
With the majority of the costume complete, I could complete some of the finishing details that just needed a little bit of time and not a whole lot of figuring out. This included making the sand worm look like it was diving in and out of the ground, lighting, action figure placement, a bit of painting, and more moss.
- If you can find a way to attach your action figures without wrecking them, go for it. Or... drill through them and glue them so that they don't get ripped out of your costume. Plan to buy new ones with your contest winnings!
- I would love to take the time to learn more effective lighting techniques, but until that happens I seem to have had plenty of luck finding appropriate solutions at the dollars store. The glowing Rayovac led lights that I bought give and nice soft interesting illuminating effect on the inside of the windows. The led flashlights that I installed in the corners have convenient push button lights that make them easy to install and turn on and off once they are installed
- I didn't mount any of the lights permanently. I mounted them in a way that I could easily replace the light with a new one if it happened to malfunction or die. I bring some extra lights with me for backup and since their just dollar store lights it's not a huge problem
- If you have time, carve a pumpkin that matches the theme for your costume. I did a quick carving lesson for a couple of my keen students. Good job guys!!
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